As I venture further down the audio path looking to be named Emperor and ultimate ruler of the almighty Tweak Kingdom, I took a trip down VenHaus Street again. This trip led me to a cottage labeled OIMP. Hmmmm, I thought to myself... OIMP... that's a pretty bizarre sounding word. Well, OIMP ain't a word. OIMP stands for Oil Impregnated Metallized Polypropylene (cap).
If you weren't aware, Chris VenHaus has been cooking again in his audio kitchen. This time he has come up with a nifty little twist on an established capacitor recipe. Chris has taken a rather bland Metallized Polypropylene capacitor entrée and added some serious flavor to it. As you guys who trip the light fantastic on tweakers road already know, a little while back Chris concocted one helluva great capacitor in the Teflon Film and Tin Foil V-Caps. Personally, I love 'em. I loved them so much I nominated them for the Tweak Product of the Year (2004). These caps were (and are) sonically stunning. They are a true delight for anyone's audio palette.
So now, we have Chris' latest entry into the capacitor cook off. This particular dish uses polypropylene as a dielectric which has been wrapped and lightly seasoned by thinly sliced aluminum foil (AKA as metallized). The poly is sautéed in extra pure virgin olive oil (not really but its oil none the less). This entrée comes with extra long, tinned OFC copper leads for ease of handling and finally, comes garnished with a shiny silver label with lovely red and blue lettering which is gently placed upon a unyielding brass case. This meal promises to provide a silky smooth presentation to the palette and auditory nerves.
The OIMP's come in a fine array serving sizes, from 1uF up to 47uF. Each of these are quite large, so if you eat from a small plate, beware.
How's that for not just regurgitating the manufacturers info?
For me, the installation couldn't have been much easier. First, I took out the Solens that resided there previously. Then I installed a couple of those sticky backed, zip tie, hold down, anchor thingies... (OK, maybe one of you brainiacs out there can let me know what these damned things are called since Alzheimer's has obviously begun to set in). Then I installed the OIMP caps, soldered one end directly to the RCA jack and the other to a short lead from the circuit board. I did install a PVC sleeve around the exposed copper leads just in case. Better to have it there than get zapped (not there is any lethal voltage at this point in the circuit but it definitely looks better). Pretty simple and it took less than an hour to do.
OK, So Here Is The Standard Disclaimer
Who knows, if you've led a good life, maybe you'll get off with a warning of an embarrassingly warm, moist stream that saunters its way down your leg ending up in your finely polished wingtips. On the other hand, if you've irritated people on a regular basis, hid behind pseudo-screen-names and cutesy little avatars, you might just graduate to the next level of consciousness. You may get to come back as simple one celled organism to teach you a lesson. Think of it, you get to start your perpetual journey all over again. Now that I think of it, go ahead, make my day. Just be sure to lick your fingers and stand in your bare feet on a concrete floor before you flip the switch to restart your preamplifier (or amplifier) without a variac.
In other words, if you don't have any experience messing about with high voltage tube gear, take your nifty new OIMP caps and your pre (amp or speakers) to local audio shop or guitar store. There should be plenty of nice technicians there that would be happy to separate you from a relatively small amount of your hard earned audio bucks.
Now Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Twitching
Over the next week or so, I stopped in daily to hear the progress. Very unlike Chris' Teflon V-Caps, these are a breeze to break in. You immediately get a flavor of how they are going to sound. Over the next week you will hear them open up and become more refined. All in all, oh, about 200 hours should get you where you want to be with these caps. You really don't need to set them up in a different system for break in. You can easily live with them in your main system as they do their thing. Just expect the sound to be a bit closed and un-resolute at first. As time marches on, they get considerably better.
These caps brought warmth to my system that was missing before. The strange part is we typically associate warmth (somehow) with a veiling of the sound. This isn't the case with these caps. The last thing these are is veiled. They allow tons of detail to come through while adding just the right amount of... something. Describing the sound of the OIMP's has been really difficult for me. These caps are very clean sounding. Though not as resolute as the Teflon V-Caps, the OIMP's allow a rich, full-bodied flavor to emanate from your favorite gear. A word I heard used by Bill Baker of Response Audio (one of the Beta testers) was 'texture'. Maybe that's a better way of describing their sound.
I'm not quite sure what the oil caps add to the electronic signal or if they add anything at all. Maybe it's distortion of some sort. Maybe it's sympathetic harmonics that are pleasing to our ears. Then again, maybe oil caps allow those harmonics to come though where a standard film cap doesn't, who knows. Maybe its similar to the difference between solid state and tubes where tubes have even order distortion and solid state de-emphasizes those same harmonics making it sound (subjectively) stripped of life. One thing is for sure, I don't have the gear in my shop to do a spectral analysis of what these caps do (or don't do) to the sound. The only thing I know is the OIMP caps sound far more lifelike than all of the other caps I've played with in these preamps.
I've had more than a few people come by and listen to my 2a3/Lowther-based system. Each of them knows it well. Each and every one of them was amazed at how much better it sounded after I upgraded to the OIMP V-Caps. The strange part to all this is that we were all pretty impressed with the sound of the system before the cap upgrade.
In the end, all I can do is trust is my ears. I've never put much faith in measurements, especially after the zero point infinity distortion ratings hailed by solid-state amps of yore. That and CD's with their 'huge dynamic range capabilities' and how new music is compressed and normalized to the point of having (maybe) 20db of dynamic range. We all know just how good those sounded don't we. To me, it's all about the music. If a cap brings me closer to the emotions I feel at a live performance such as the OIMP caps do, then I'm sold.
Do I have any complaints about the caps? It would be nice if they were smaller so I could improve the sound of even more of my gear. I doubt that's going to happen. It sure would be cool if I could find a way to installed these in my old HH Scott 299c though. I guess I could but I'd have to build an extended sub-chassis to house them.
Don't forget, these caps aren't just for tube amps and pre's. You can use these in your speaker crossovers, as bypass caps in power supplies in both tube and solid state gear or even in coupling situations as in a CD player (good luck fitting them in there). With a 600-Volt rating, you hardcore tube guys running 211's, 845's and other exotic beam tubes might just be able to use them too.
These caps really do make one heck of a difference. Depending on your system sound, these caps should work quite well. It seems that many current systems tend to be a bit on the lean side nowadays. You'll find that these caps will bring a system like that back to life. They bring just the right amount of texture to the sound without sacrificing any of the detail and bass or treble extension that we all love so much. If you are currently using caps like Solens, Hovland, or MultiCaps, plan on getting even more detail from your system. As I said earlier, the last thing these caps are is veiled. Will they be more revealing than a Teflon cap? Nope, but in concert with the VenHaus' TFTF Cap as it is in my Korato pre, it has become a spectaculaire sonique.
In the end, are the VH Audio IOMP V-Caps worth the Kings ransom Chris is asking for them? You bet. In fact I'd pay double (think I'm kidding… I'm not). These things made that much of an improvement in my system. Here's something a bit different, Chris offers a Lifetime Warranty to the original purchaser on his OIMP caps. Providing you haven't done anything stupid with the cap, if it fails, leaks or what ever, Chris will gladly replace the cap. You don't see that kind of warranty from other capacitor manufacturers.
I've just about convinced myself about something I only hinted at earlier. I'd bet a donut that these caps don't add a thing (sonically) to the music. Unlike some of the other caps out there that strip the music of life, the OIMP V-Caps allow all of the rich texture originally recorded, to come through with all it's glorious emotion. If I had to sum up these caps in a single word, it would have to be fabulous.
And Now For A Little Music
Ray Charles doesn't need much if any introduction to many (if any) of us. This guy has influenced so many musicians of the years that it's almost scary. During his nearly sixty-year career Ray has garnered no less than 13 Grammy's, countless nominations and was an original Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.
Just a few short month's before he left us, Ray Charles sat down with a host of musicians and put the finishing touches on a recording that would be his final release, Genius Loves Company. Sitting in on the sessions were a dozen extremely well known artists. The list of musicians covers the many faceted stylings of his long, colorful career.
This album made up of strictly duets, features Ray sharing the microphone with R&B artists Natalie Cole, BB King, Gladys Knight, Micheal McDonald, and Bonnie Raitt. Representing the Jazz musicians are Norah Jones, Diana Krall, and Johnny Mathis. Then finally Ray has teamed up with Rock (Pop) and Country musicians Elton John, Van Morrison, James Taylor and Willie Nelson.
Dennis Cassidy of Pure Audiophile Records and Stan Ricker of SRM have teamed up again to take Ray's final release to new heights. As usual, Dennis used RTI's plating facility for the stampers. This release has been pressed on 180 gram virgin vinyl cut directly from the original analog 2 track master tapes. The album art is flawless on this traditional gatefold LP. Besides the cover art, Dennis has included a readable version of the liners notes (unlike the tiny print of the CD release).
This album has an interesting mix of different music by each of the artists. Some are evergreens such as 'It Was A Very Good Year" (Ervin Drake) wperformed by Ray and Willie Nelson and the tune "You Don't Know Me" (Eddy Arnold) with Diana Krall. Others are the guest musicians compositions like "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word" (Elton John and Bernie Taupin) or "Sweet Potato Pie" (James Taylor).
Throughout this release you will find hidden treasures like Rays duets with BB King called "Sinners Prayer" or "Crazy Love" with Van Morrison. Though Ray is a bit past his prime vocally, each of the cuts are a nice listen if for no other reason to hear each of the performers and the (sometimes) enormous supporting band. Speaking of which, Billy Preston makes several appearances to lend his own brand of perfection to the Hammond B3 organ.
When you drop the needle on this album for the first time, you can't help but notice how quiet these discs are. The next thing that jumps out are the sonics. This release could be one of the best sounding Dennis and Stan have done to date (and I have them all). It is extremely good.
For those unfamiliar with Ray Charles, this should give you a good taste of Rays past stylings. Keep in mind, Ray is well into his 70's so he is past his prime vocally but he never lets you forget what made him such a great performer.
'til next time...